| WASHINGTON, April 10
WASHINGTON, April 10 President Barack Obama
included $4 billion to improve security at hundreds of overseas
diplomatic posts in his budget proposal on Wednesday, in the
wake of the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. mission
in Benghazi, Libya.
The money would secure overseas personnel and facilities,
including enough money to increase embassy security construction
to $2.2 billion, as recommended after an independent review of
the Benghazi attacks.
Embassy security has been under particular scrutiny - amid
harsh criticism of the Obama administration by Republican
lawmakers - since the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other
Americans were killed in the eastern Libyan city.
The proposal reflects shifting U.S. priorities as Washington
winds down its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Programs in Iraq,
Afghanistan and Pakistan account for $6.8 billion of the budget
proposal, $4.2 billion less than requested in 2012. The budget
plan calls for $2.1 billion for Iraq, $3.4 billion for
Afghanistan and $1.4 billion for Pakistan.
"We owe it to the American people to do our part to help
solve the fiscal problems that threaten not only our future
economic health, but also our standing in the global order,"
Secretary of State John Kerry wrote in a letter to Congress.
"As such, we have proposed necessary cuts, where it will not
adversely affect our national security, and we propose modest
increases, where they are necessary to achieve our highest
priorities," he said.
Overall, Obama has asked for $47.8 billion for the
Department of State and U.S. Agency for International
Development, a six percent decrease from 2012 levels, because of
the lower requests for Iraq and Afghanistan.
As expected, the budget proposes the most sweeping change in
U.S. food aid in decades, with a plan intended to feed more
people and deliver food more quickly. It would end a practice of
buying food from American farmers and shipping it overseas.
Under the plan, Washington would donate $1.1 billion to a
disaster relief account for food vouchers that would be used to
buy food from suppliers located near areas of need.
Shipping can double food aid costs because, by law, supplies
must be transported on U.S.-flagged vessels.
An additional $250 million would be provided to economic
development projects and $75 million would be earmarked for
The food aid proposal could face a tough fight. Aid groups
disagree over whether the switch to cash donation is advisable.
And two dozen senators wrote the White House in March to try to
derail the change.
However, proponents said the plan would let the United
States feed millions more people each year, while assisting
farmers in poor countries by buying their crops.